Lester R. Brown: Ecologist, Author and Economist

A Plowboy Interview with Lester R. Brown, ecologist, author and economist, who has spent his adult life studying and writing about global food, population, and other economic and environmental problems.

| March/April 1978

  • Lester R. Brown, ecologist, author and economist.
    Lester R. Brown, ecologist, author and economist.
    Photo by the MOTHER EARTH NEWS staff
  • World price of newsprint, 1951-77.
    World price of newsprint, 1951-77.
    Graph source: International Monetary Fund
  • U.S. Crude Oil Production, 1950-77.
    U.S. Crude Oil Production, 1950-77.
    Graph source: U.S. Department of the Interior.
  • World price of soybeans, 1958-77.
    World price of soybeans, 1958-77.
    Graph source: International Monetary Fund

  • Lester R. Brown, ecologist, author and economist.
  • World price of newsprint, 1951-77.
  • U.S. Crude Oil Production, 1950-77.
  • World price of soybeans, 1958-77.

The Plowboy Interview talks with Lester R. Brown, ecologist, author and economist, who has spent his adult life working on economic and environmental problems.

Lester R. Brown, Ecologist, Author and Economist

"One of the world's most influential thinkers" . . . those are the words The Washington Post used to describe Lester R. Brown. And to anyone familiar with his work, it will come as no surprise. Author/ecologist/economist Brown has spent the lost twenty of his 44 years studying and writing about global food, population, and other problems . . . and becoming justly famous for his strikingly original interdisciplinary analyses of those problems.

Lester Brown was recognized as a leading authority on the world food situation as early as 1965, when he was the recipient of the Arthur S. Flemming Award as one of the Ten Outstanding Young Men in the Federal Government. A year later — at the age of 31 — Brown was named one of the Ten Outstanding Young Men of America by the U.S. Jaycees, in recognition of his early anticipation of the 1965 crop failure in India. (Brown foresaw the crisis early enough to initiate a massive-and successful-food rescue effort, thereby averting disaster.)

To say that Lester Brown is well prepared academically to analyze world food (and other) problems would be an understatement. Brown holds degrees in agriculture, economics, and public administration from Rutgers, the University of Maryland, and Harvard. (He also counts among his credits several honorary doctorates.) No less impressive than his academic background, however, is Brown's surprisingly diverse — some might say promiscuously diverse — professional affiliations: He is a member of the Federation of American Scientists, the Society for International Development, the World Future Society, the American Economic Association, Zero Population Growth, the U.S. Committee for UNICEF, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the Board of Directors of the Overseas Development Council. (At present, he is also President of and Senior Researcher with Washington, D.C.'s World-watch Institute, a private, non-profit research organization.)



Lester Brown's six books (Man, Land, and Food; Seeds of Change; World Without Borders; In the Human Interest; By Bread Alone; and The Twenty-Ninth Day) have been published in a dozen languages, and his incisive analyses — sometimes technical, sometimes informal (but invariably fascinating)have appeared in such diverse periodicals as Time, Foreign Affairs, Scientific American, and The Wall Street Journal.

But despite his many degrees . . . despite his professional achievements . . . despite the fact that he is so widely published . . . Lester Brown remains a remarkably modest, remarkably approachable, and refreshingly (for an economist) straightforward guy. It turns out that Lester is also a deeply concerned (and unusually perceptive) observer of the economic, environmental, and energy scenes . . . as MOTHER editor Kas Thomas learned when he spoke with Lester Brown in the Worldwatch Institute's seventh-floor offices in Washington, D.C.






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